Dr. Paola Arlotta is a professor of stem cell and regenerative biology at Harvard University, and Chair of HSCRB. She is a principal faculty member at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, an institute member at the Broad Institute, and an associate member of the Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research at the Broad Institute.
The function of the brain relies on the integration into functional circuits of an outstanding diversity of cell types. Generation and maintenance of cell diversity, correct wiring into neural circuits, and orchestrated interaction of neurons and glia are critical, and when disrupted lead to neurological disease.
Focusing on the developing cerebral cortex, the Arlotta lab has had a long-standing interest in discovering the mechanistic principles that govern the establishment and maintenance of cellular diversity and its integration into working networks that subserve cortical function. While mice are instrumental for this basic work, the cortex has diverged dramatically in primates, and there is limited knowledge of development of the human cortex. Motivated by understanding how our own cortex develops and how human neurodevelopmental disease emerges, the lab has built on their basic program in the mouse to instruct, validate and study human cortical development in vitro, within 3D cortical organoids of unprecedented complexity and reproducibility.
Collectively, the Arlotta lab research program explores the interface between development and engineering of the neocortex, to gain fundamental understanding of both the principles that govern normal cortical development and of previously-inaccessible mechanisms of human neurodevelopmental disease.
Dr. Arlotta received her M.S. in biochemistry from the University of Trieste, Italy, and her Ph.D. in molecular biology from the University of Portsmouth in the UK. She subsequently completed her postdoctoral training in neuroscience at Harvard Medical School.
Forward thinking: Reproducible, miniature 3D models of human brain tissue open new frontiers in neuroscienceRead on the Harvard Gazette
Rewinding the brain: Shaping the fight against neurological diseaseRead on the Harvard Gazette
Professor Paola Arlotta awarded George Ledlie PrizeRead on the Harvard Gazette
New vista for brain disorder researchRead on the Harvard Gazette
Neurons reprogrammed in animalsRead on the Harvard Gazette
New avenue in neurobiologyRead on the Harvard Gazette
Experimental Embryology: From Stem Cells to Tissues and Back Again
Description: This advanced laboratory course will apply experimental approaches and surgical techniques to illustrate critical events of embryonic development. Students will be trained to perform a diversified set of experiments to observe firsthand how embryos develop and how manipulations of embryonic development lead to mutant organogenesis. Attention will also be paid to illustrating how developmental mechanisms may be used to aid efforts to regenerate specific tissue types in the adult organism.
Particular emphasis will be placed on experiments covering the following topics: in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation embryology; fate specification, morphogenesis, and lineage relationships; organ development; directed differentiation of cell types from Embryonic Stem (ES) cells; tissue-specific stem cells; surgical manipulation of late stage mouse embryos in utero; and neural stem cell transplantation. Students will gain direct experience working with various species including: sea urchin, chicken, zebrafish, frog, and mouse embryos.
Changing Our Mind: Evolving Thoughts on Brain Regeneration
In this Freshman seminar, we will discuss current views and theories on brain regeneration in a dynamic setting that combines brainstorming of the literature with experimental, hands-on experience in the laboratory. Students will become familiar with classic, paradigm-changing experiments that have shaped the way we think about brain repair and consider the newest theories on cellular reprogramming as a way to regenerate the nervous system.
The seminar will include two visits to the research laboratory, where students will use different animal models to investigate, first hand, the distinct regenerative capabilities of each organism. Experimental results will be used as a starting point to consider, contrast, and evaluate how regenerative capacities have changed during evolution, and to brainstorm paths forward towards new solutions for brain regeneration in species, like humans, that have not mastered this art.
This course emphasizes allowing students to think creatively about key scientific questions and to “feel” the excitement of scientific discovery in this fast-changing field.